Joan Shakespeare

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Joan Shakespeare (baptised 15 April 1569–buried 4 November 1646) was the sister of William Shakespeare. She is the only member of the family whose known descendants continue down to the present day.

Life[edit]

Joan was Shakespeare's younger sister, named after her parents' deceased first-born child. She married a hatter named William Hart with whom she had four children, William (1600–39), Mary (1603-7), Thomas (1605–61), and Michael (1608-18).

Little is known about Joan's husband, William, apart from the fact that he was sued for debt in 1600 and 1601.[1] He died in April 1616, and was buried 17 April, a week before William Shakespeare died. In his will her brother left her a legacy of £20, some clothing, and granted her the right to live in the western part of the double family house on Henley Street in Stratford for a nominal yearly rent of one shilling. She continued to reside there for the remainder of her life, dying at the age of 77.[2]

Her son William never married. Her other descendants via Thomas lived in Stratford until 1806. Thomas inherited the Henley Street house known as Shakespeare's Birthplace.[1] He had many descendants. By the 18th century Joan's descendants were identifying themselves as carrying the poet's family line. John Hart (1755-1800) was identified as "the 6th descendant of the poet Shakespeare" on his gravestone in Tewkesbury Abbey Churchyard, Gloucestershire.

In literature[edit]

In her essay A Room of One's Own, Virginia Woolf created a character, "Judith Shakespeare", supposed to be Shakespeare's sister. In fact Judith was his daughter. It is unknown whether this was a mistake or a deliberate conflation of the two women. In her story Shakespeare's sister is denied the education of her brother despite her obvious talent as a writer. When her father tries to marry her off, she runs away to join a theatre company but is ultimately rejected because of her sex. She becomes pregnant, is abandoned by her partner and commits suicide.[3]

A teenage Joan appears in Laurie Lawlor's novel The Two Loves of Will Shakespeare (2006), in which she presented as an aspirant poet who resents the restrictions placed on her as a woman. She writes sonnets, one of which her brother plagiarises. She is in love with Richard Field, but he pursues Anne Whateley.[4] In Shakespeare's Will, Vern Thiessen's speculative biographical play about Anne Hathaway, Joan is a "bitch" who is constantly interfering in Anne's life.[5]

Ancestry[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Campbell, O.J. (ed), A Shakespeare Encyclopaedia, Taylor and Francis, 1966, p.305.
  2. ^ Schoenbaum, S. (1977) William Shakespeare: A Compact Documentary Life. Oxford: Oxford UP, ISBN 0-19-502433-8, pp. 27-8, 299.
  3. ^ Ezell, Margaret J. M. (1993) Writing Women's Literary History, Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press. pg. 44-45 ISBN 0-8018-4432-0.
  4. ^ Laurie Lawlor, The Two Loves of Will Shakespeare, Holiday House, 2006.
  5. ^ J. Kelly Nestruck, Shakespeare's Will: In bed with the Shakespeares, The Globe and Mail, Friday, Jul. 15, 2011.

External links[edit]